School Board Considers Hiring Staff Aides

The Loudoun County School Board is considering carving out funds during the next budget cycle to hire staff aides.

Most board members have full-time jobs in addition to their role on the board, and several said they dedicate more than 20 hours a week to their elected position. They are paid a salary of $20,000 per year and the chairman is paid $22,000, but have no office budget to help provide constituent services.

Board members who said they were willing to consider hiring aides noted that each county supervisor has at least one full-time staff member. Each county district office gets $120,597 to spend each year, and the county chairman’s office receives $161,040.

The School Board’s Communication and Outreach Committee is recommending spending $87,197 to pay for one part-time aide, at 10 hours a week, per board member.

“We’re talking about $1 per student per year … to provide that extra level of service to our constituents,” Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) said.

First-term board member Beth Huck (At Large) broached the subject during the board’s meeting Tuesday. She chairs the Communication and Outreach Committee, which has studied the proposal and adopted a statement stating it “conceptually” supports the inclusion of staff aides in next fiscal year’s budget.

Huck said she wanted other board members to weigh in on the proposal, but she stressed that she has serious reservations. “While I do see the benefits of having an aide, I would much rather see the funds spent in the schools and in the classroom.”

Jeff Morse (Dulles) argued that dedicating money to staff positions would alleviate one of the most common complaints from families.

“Every year we hear about this from the community that we don’t communicate well,” he said. “Yes, we can put this in the classroom—we could put every dollar in the classroom. But we can’t run a school system if we can’t communicate with the residents of the county.”

Turgeon said she was on the fence about it, but noted that having even 10 hours of help a week would mean board members would take up less of senior staff members’ time.

Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) argued that there already were mechanisms in place to help board members. For example, he suggested his colleagues turn to their committees to help wade through research or lean more on current school system staff.

“For me, it’s hard to justify the expense and, frankly, I think it’s hard for supervisors to justify the expense,” he said.

Two years ago, county supervisors specifically earmarked money for School Board members to hire staff, but the board declined. At the time, members said they could not justify aides when other services were being cut.

The topic will return to the Communication and Outreach Committee for further discussion and may make it into the proposed fiscal year 2018 budget, which Superintendent Eric Williams presents in January.